Monday, August 13, 2012

David Barton: When Jesus is Lord Means Caesar is Lord

Secularists tend to understand the separation of church and state in such a way that religious beliefs should have no bearing on politics. The reaction of many evangelicals has been to argue that America was founded as a Christian nation and that the separation was only intended to keep the state from messing with the church but that the church can mess with the state as much as it wants. Neither position really takes original intent seriously, both are engaging in revisionist history, and although the second position is more likely to be more popular with Christians it is far more dangerous to real Christianity.

David Barton is one of the more popular defenders of the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. Barton has no formal credentials in law or history but is presented to us as an expert in historical and constitutional issues. When confronted with the fact that no reputable historians agree with him, Barton refuses to engage in debate and says that they disagree because they're either all liberals or jealous of him. Many of Barton's quotes of the founding fathers have been shown to be fraudulent.

Huckabee, Gingrich, and Glenn Beck have all sung the praises of Barton. But he has also run into some trouble with some evangelicals recently because of his statements that Glenn Beck (who is a Mormon) is a Christian. I would argue that Barton is just being consistent. Barton regards Beck as being a Christian for the same reason that he regards the founding fathers as all being Christians and for the same reason he regards the Constitution as being Christian. For Barton, a Christian is not someone who believes in the Christ of Scripture. For Barton, a Christian is someone who holds to a Judeo-Christian morality, believes in limited government, and is a Zionist. Barton dismisses the statements Jefferson made against Christianity. Jefferson even issued his own version of the Bible with all the miracles removed but Barton even tries to explain this away and even says that there is no DNA evidence to prove that Jefferson fathered any children outside of his marriage. In the mind of Barton, what makes a person a Christian seems to be that they support the Republican party platform and say nice things about Jesus. Doctrines like the Trinity or who Jesus was are really not important to Barton.

In the early church, Christians were put to death for refusing to say "Caesar is Lord." It wasn't really believed that Caesar was an actual god as much as it was acknowledging allegiance to a particular culture and worldview. Many Roman intellectuals did not regard the stories about the gods as true but they formed part of a cultural heritage. The Christian worldview was understood to be a threat to that unity and heritage. Christians didn't party with the Romans and placed greater value on those who were looked down on in Roman society. Christians did not try to convince the Romans that the Rome was a Christian nation and did not try to legislate Christianity.

When Barton engages in revisionist history he doesn't help the Christian cause at all. Instead he makes Christians look like idiots. But worse than that, he turns Caesar into Jesus. If Romney, Jefferson, and Deist founding fathers are true Christians, then what is a Christian? It can't have anything to do with the Biblical Jesus who is true God and true man and died for our sins, since these people that Barton claims are Christians deny some or all of these teachings. I'm sure that people who affirm the orthodox teachings regarding Christ would be regarded as Christians by Barton as well but it's not necessary. If the early Christians were concerned for the "Christianity" that Barton endorses they would never have bothered to write the Nicene Creed. They would have issued political and moral statements but not doctrinal statements. Jesus. As it stands, Barton's "Jesus" has very little to do with the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. Barton's "Jesus" is the embodiment of Judeo-Christian values enshrined in the Constitution as interpreted by the neo-conservatives. Barton's Jesus is really Caesar. Barton's is not the Caesar of Biblical times but he is still a Caesar.

When Caesar kills Christians it's very clear who Caesar is and what a Christian is and who Jesus is. But when Jesus becomes reinterpreted to fit the mold of the American Caesar, the true Jesus gets lost and there is no salvation because there is nothing we really need saving from unless of course you aren't American and/or don't subscribe to American ideals.


Daniel Casey said...


covnitkepr1 said...

Wish every living Christian could read this post.
Ministers don't mind poreaching politics...but wonder what would happen if government starting taxing church organzations.

I’ve been a follower on your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.
Just checking back for any new posts you may have written.

Anonymous said...

So do we believe that all those historical documents he has found are real?

P.S. I am not a robot, but I think one must be in order to read some of those word verification things!!

Chuck Wiese said...


It would take a siginficant amount of time to sort out the legitimate from the false in Barton's works and others on the internet are already doing this. Barton himself has admitted that some of the quotes are inaccurate and/or unconfirmed:

Even when there is a quote from a particular American founding father saying something good about God and the Bible that's hardly the basis for saying that America is a Christian nation. Many of the founding fathers denied the miracles of Christ and His resurrection and all that but still believed that the Bible provided a good moral code. But believing that the Bible provides a good moral code doesn't make someone a Christian. The Constitution is completely Christless and I think Christless Christianity is far more dangerous than a Constitution that allows for various religions.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for explaining things to me, I think. Despite what I knew about some of the founding fathers, I still thought we were a Christian nation.

As much as I wanted to believe Barton, I keep wondering how it was that he found all this stuff. It is sort of comforting to know that I'm not the only one questioning it.

Thank you!